By Sam A. Moak
Sad, Sad Day in Happy Valley
The information in this column is not intended as legal advice but to provide a general understanding of the law. Any readers with a legal problem, including those whose questions are addressed here, should consult an attorney for advice on their particular circumstance.
Most of you are aware of the very sad situation in Happy Valley, Pennsylvania. However, perhaps some of you have not read the paper, seen the 6 or 10 o’clock news, read the social media posts or have simply been under a rock, so this may be your first knowledge of the events. Gerald “Jerry” Sandusky, a former assistant coach at Penn State University, was indicted for sexually abusing young boys. As a result of the indictment, the university has dismissed its president, Graham Spainer, head coach, Joe Paterno, and athletic director, Tim Curley.
Most disturbing about this entire tragedy is that 8 young boys are the victims. However, because of the pedestal Joe Paterno was placed on by Penn State fans, the fact that he has been fired garnered the most reaction.
Sandusky created a charity, The Second Mile, as a group foster home for underprivileged children. It now appears Sandusky used this charity to gain access to young boys. While his acts with these victims are terrible, it is equally horrifying that a graduate assistant at Penn State University actually witnessed one “incident” in the Penn State athletic showers in 2002. The assistant reported it to his athletic director (Curley) and coach (Paterno). However, only now 9 years later, has Sandusky been indicted. Yet the assistant is now the wide receiver coach at Penn State University. By all appearances it seems the reputation of Penn State University’s football program and head coach out weighed the crime committed against this poor young victim.
Unfortunately, those adults who should have risen up to protect this young victim failed to do so. Sexual abuse is a terrible crime that unfortunately is part of our society. I am not familiar with Pennsylvania law, but really don’t need to be. I know that if I witnessed a child being sexually abused, I have a duty to report that. I can not imagine stopping my outcry until something was done to protect that child.
Anyone having cause to believe that a child’s physical or mental health or welfare has been or may be adversely affected by abuse or neglect MUST report the case immediately to a state or local law enforcement agency or the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. Additionally, Texas Law requires that professionals such as teachers, doctors, nurses, or child daycare workers must make a verbal report within 48 hours. Failure to report suspected child abuse or neglect is a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment of up to 180 days and/or a fine up to $2,000. Reporting suspected child abuse to your principal, school counselor or superintendent will NOT satisfy your obligation under this law. Local school district policy cannot conflict with or supercede the state law requiring you to report child abuse to a law enforcement agency.
I hope that you are never a witness to such a horrible crime, but if you find yourself in that position, or even if you suspect abuse or neglect, you must take action. I read in an article earlier this week, “bad things happen when good men fail to take action.” Failing to act, failing to protect those who cannot protect themselves is a furtherance of the crime.
If you can, go to http://www.wltx.com/news/pdf/Sandusky-Grand-Jury-Presentment.pdf for a copy of the full indictment. I will warn you the acts are egregious and described in detail. It is not for the faint of heart. Gerald “Jerry ” Sandusky will answer for his crimes. It is only fitting those who failed to act should pay for their inaction, no matter who they are or what the program.
Sam A. Moak is an attorney with the Huntsville law firm of Moak & Moak, P.C. He is licensed to practice in all fields of law by the Supreme Court of Texas, is a Member of the State Bar College, and is a member of the Real Estate, Probate and Trust Law Section of the State Bar of Texas.